Southern Fried Chicken
(American fried chicken with a crispy crust)
The process is pretty straightforward. To start, pieces of chicken are soaked in a simple buttermilk brine, which tenderizes the meat and makes it extra flavorful. Then the chicken pieces are dredged in seasoned flour and fried to crispy perfection in a skillet of hot oil or lard.
4 to 6 servings
- Chicken, cut into serving pieces – 3 to 3 1/2 pounds
- Buttermilk – 2 cups
- Salt – 1 tablespoon
- Flour – 2 cups
- Salt – 1 tablespoon
- Pepper – 2 teaspoons
- Oil or shortening for deep frying
- Add the chicken pieces, buttermilk and 1 tablespoon of salt to a large, non-reactive bowl. Toss to mix well, cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, up to 24 hours.
- When you are ready to start your chicken, remove the bowl from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for about 20 to 30 minutes. Don't try frying chicken pieces when they're cold. The skin won't get as crispy.
- Add the flour, other tablespoon of salt and the pepper to a large paper bag. Close the bag and shake it to mix the flour and seasonings.
- Remove a piece of chicken from the buttermilk let the excess drip off. Add the chicken piece to the bag of flour and repeat with a couple more pieces. Roll the top of the bag down and shake to coat the pieces well with flour. Remove the coated chicken pieces to a baking sheet with a rack and repeat with the remaining pieces of chicken. Set the floured chicken aside for about 20 minutes to set the coating.
- Heat 1 or 2 inches of oil to 375°F in a large, deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high flame. Working in batches, place a few pieces of chicken into the oil, skin side down, and cook until well browned on on side, about 4 to 5 minutes. Then flip and brown on the other side. Remove to the baking sheet and repeat with the remaining chicken.
- Reduce the heat to low and return all the chicken to the skillet or Dutch oven. Cover and cook slowly for another 30 to 40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender.
- Remove the cover and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook for another 5 minutes, turning occasionally, to recrisp the skin.
- Remove the chicken to a clean baking sheet and rack and hold in a warm oven until serving. Fried chicken goes well with biscuits, coleslaw and mashed potatoes. Make up a cream gravy to pour over for a true Southern meal.
Southern Fried Chicken Variations
- Fat or Oil: Hot oil is key to keeping your chicken from getting too greasy. Peanut oil best because it can get very hot before it begins to smoke. Some cooks insist on shortening or lard. Add a little bacon grease to the fat for extra flavor.
- Seasonings: Any number of seasonings can be added to the flour mixture. Common additons are paprika, powdered or granulated garlic, or a pinch of cayenne pepper.
- Brining or Marinating: Instead of soaking the chicken in buttermilk, you can make a simple brine of 1 gallon of water and 1/2 cup salt to soak the chicken in. It will season and moisten the meat. Or use your favorite chicken marinade. juicier and more flavorful.
- Crispy Coating: Some cooks use cracker crumbs or cornmeal instead of flour to coat the chicken. Try mixing a handful of either into your seasoned flour. Other cooks dip the chicken in egg mixed with some of the buttermilk. before tossing with the flour. You can also give the chicken pieces a second toss in the seasoned flour right before it goes into the hot oil for a more substantial coating.
- Finishing in the Oven: Some people have difficulty in getting the skin to crisp up again after it has steamed in the covered pot or skillet. You can avoid this problem by finishing your chicken on a rack-lined baking sheet in a 350°F oven after the initial browning. Give it about 35 to 45 minutes in the oven to cook through fully. It will be done when the internal temperature of a big piece reaches 165°F.
- If you are making fried chicken for a crowd, use two skillets or Dutch ovens at a time to get your cooking done more quickly.